Emory helps launch for-credit online education program

By Kimber Williams | Emory Report | Nov. 19, 2012

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Emory joins a consortium of 10 top universities to offer Semester Online, featuring for-credit online classes. Emory Photo/Video.

Emory has joined a consortium of leading American universities to launch Semester Online, a new online education program that will offer rigorous, for-credit undergraduate courses taught by some of the nation's top educators.

The innovative partnership was announced during a Nov. 15 online press conference intended to simulate the interactive virtual classroom environment that Semester Online students will experience.

Consortium members include:

  • Brandeis University
  • Duke University
  • Emory University
  • Northwestern University
  • The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • University of Notre Dame
  • University of Rochester
  • Vanderbilt University
  • Wake Forest University, and
  • Washington University in St. Louis.

"All of the members of the Semester Online consortium are as committed as Emory University is to providing students with a rich, high-quality academic experience online," says Lynn Zimmerman, senior vice provost for undergraduate and continuing education, who notes that the consortium is expected to grow.

Enrollment and course information should be available by spring 2013, with pilot classes scheduled to begin next fall.

The cost of online classes is anticipated to be comparable to what students now pay; admission will be available to any academically qualified student attending consortium schools, as well as those at other top universities across the country.

Not only does the program expand opportunities for Emory students to pursue unique course offerings with some of the nation's top professors, Zimmerman says it will provide unprecedented flexibility in helping to manage their personal and academic lives, with the ability to engage in internships and work experiences, travel or manage personal commitments while pursuing academic goals.

In addition, the partnership will create new collaborative opportunities among faculty at participating universities and help broaden and enrich the diversity of classroom discourse.

Courses will be presented in a live, real-time classroom environment, limited to sections of about 15-20 students at a time and taught by professors at the nation's top-tier universities. Ultimately, the program could serve a worldwide audience.

While online learning has created new opportunities for today's universities, Semester Online stands apart — unlike Coursera, for example, the program is for credit, charges tuition, has a selective admissions process, and provides classes taught live in a small group setting, Zimmerman says.

"The changes that are happening in higher education utilizing technology and developing platforms for online learning are changing incredibly quickly. We thought it was the right opportunity to be part of an experiment with other really great schools … to be part of an important wave of reform in higher education," she adds.

"It's exciting to be at the forefront of this  — there isn't anything quite like it  — and I know that Emory students are very excited about the possibilities."

In launching Semester Online, the first-of-its-kind consortium has partnered with 2U Inc., a company that partners with leading universities to deliver graduate and undergraduate for-credit coursework online.

"The model of online education that 2U has created and utilized for faculty and graduate education fits the quality of Emory education and represents, in my mind, the first time that online education has had that quality associated with it," Zimmerman notes.